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25 Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish Species
If you plan to set up your own freshwater aquarium, you’ll need the best fish to put inside it. This article will help you learn about the best freshwater aquarium fish species.
Any of the following species could be a good match for your tank. However, if you pick one or two breeds, make sure you have all their requirements put in place, so they will thrive in the new aquarium.
Now, let’s begin with the first, and probably most popular freshwater fish, called the Guppy Fish:
1. Guppy Fish
The Guppy is a popular breed among new aquarium enthusiasts, because it doesn’t need too much special knowledge, to care for it. All you need for it, is a simple freshwater tank, with multiple plants and substrate.
Their natural habitat is in South America, where they were first found in 1866. You may also know the Guppy, as the Million Fish or the Rainbow Fish.
This species comes in many different colors and variations. You’ll find red, grey, blue and many other versions on the market. Their tail shape is also different, depending on their type. One thing is common though: every Guppy looks beautiful in a community tank.
Usually, Guppies are peaceful fish, that are good to be kept together with other species. They will swim around all day (usual behavior). If you find them sitting in a corner, or not moving for a fairly long period of time, they could be sick or stressed out.
2. Platy Fish
The Platy Fish, is another great choice for beginner fish keepers. It is a breed, that you can care for easily, and looks great in pretty much any community tank, due to its peaceful nature.
It can live up to 5 years, if you do everything by the book. Also, most Platies will grow up to 3 inches long, so they’re not very big. Like the Guppies before them, Platies also come in many different colorations, so you’ll have plenty of choices.
Most Platies are considered omnivores, so they eat plants and meat as well. However, be balanced when you set up their diet. Usually, vegetables need to be the biggest part of their diet, with some additional meat components. In their natural habitat, they eat all sorts of things, but like most of all herbivorous food.
To make your Platies happy, keep the aquarium full of plants, where they can hide and live their life, like in their natural environment.
3. Molly Fish
The Mollies are a great choice for both beginner and veteran fish keepers. They are easy to care for and also, any Molly will look great in your freshwater tank. Usually, Mollies are community fish, so they will behave peacefully, when kept together with others.
However, if their tank mates aren’t peaceful enough, Mollies could start behaving more aggressively towards them. So, make sure you only keep tank mates that behave peacefully, to avoid any conflicts.
Just like the Platies before, Mollies are also omnivores, so you can give them all sorts of food. Worms are a good choice, but don’t stop there. Mollies really like to eat algae and simple vegetables as well. You can even give them vegetables from your kitchen. Only make sure, you cut those into small pieces, for them to be easy to consume.
Mollies are small fish. Most of them won’t grow larger than 4,5 inches long. Because of this, you can put multiple ones in the same tank. This way, they will feel much more at home. If you care for them properly, they live up to 5 years.
4. Swordtail Fish
Swordtails are a big family of fishes, because they come in a multitude of different colors and shapes. However, a common aspect of Swordtails, is the sword-like tail, present at all versions, hence their name.
They are very popular, because you can care for them easily, without much of a headache. What do they need?
For instance, a 15-gallon aquarium is a good starting point. Swordtails won’t grow too big, however they swim around a lot. So, having such a tank will benefit them quite a lot. Also, it can be a good idea to cover your tank, because Swordtails are great jumpers.
The water temperature should be kept between 65- and 82-degrees Fahrenheit. To make sure the temperature is always in their favor, avoid sudden changes.
Feeding them is quite easy. You can buy flake food, but simple vegetables will also do the trick. They like worms and shrimp as well.
5. Cory Catfish
The Cory Catfish, or Corydoras, is a very popular breed among freshwater tank owners. One of the main reason, why so many people own one or more Cory Catfish, is that they eat a lot of algae.
Actually, the Cory Catfish is used as an aquarium bottom cleaner fish. Most of its time, is spent scavenging the bottom of the tank for left-overs, and most of all, algae. Actually, a single Cory can clean a 20/30-gallon tank by itself, from all the algae in it.
Of course, it’s best if you keep multiple ones in your aquarium. They are community fish, that live peacefully with most other species. Most Corys will be active during daytime, but it happens quite often that they remain active in the night as well.
If you plan to keep Corys, know that they need a 10-gallon tank, at least. They can thrive in bigger aquariums as well, but a 10-gallon tank is fine in most cases.
6. Bristlenose Pleco
The Bristlenose Pleco, is a very common Pleco Catfish species, that people tend to choose over the Common Pleco, because of its smaller size. Usually, a Bristlenose Pleco will grow up to 5 inches long, which is a lot smaller than the Common Pleco, that grows up to 24 inches.
Even so, this species needs a lot of space to thrive in. If you plan to buy Bristlenose Plecos, make sure you have an aquarium that is 25 gallons in volume.
Also, you should know that keeping 2 males in the same tank isn’t a good idea. This version of Pleco Fish, is quite territorial. Two males in the same tank will feel threatened all the time by each other. So, it’s best to put 1 male and multiple females in your tank, if you want to have more than one.
Like the Cory Catfish, the Bristlenose Pleco is also a bottom dweller. Most of its time is spent on the bottom of the tank scavenging and eating algae. However, besides the algae from the tank, they will need to have a vegetarian diet, composed of sinking pellets (wafers) and simple vegetables.
7. Gourami Fish
The Gourami is another bigger family of fishes. There are many different versions of this species, that most work well in freshwater indoor aquariums.
If you plan to buy some of these, depending on the type of Gourami you buy, you’ll need a bigger or smaller aquarium. For instance, the Dwarf Gourami, is a small version, that will live happily in a 10-gallon water tank. But there are others, that grow way bigger, and could need an even 30 or 40 gallon tank.
Something common with all Gouramis, is the fact that they like a well-planted aquarium. So, make sure your tank is full of tall plants, that touch the surface of the water. This will make them feel at home.
Also, keep in mind that males don’t like each other; they quickly become aggressive towards one another. So, keep only one male in the tank, with multiple females.
The Angelfish is among the most beautiful species you can get for your freshwater aquarium. It comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. The Angelfish is naturally spotted in South America, in many rivers, including the Amazon.
They slow moving water, that is full of driftwood and other great places for hiding in. Because of this, your tank must also contain these elements. For hiding places, you can even put small caves in the tank.
The Angelfish is an omnivore species, so you can feed it with many different food items. For instance, they really like worms and flakes, that are specifically made for them. However, you can also feed them simple vegetables, that are sliced into small pieces.
Be aware that fully grown Angelfish, could eat smaller fish that are present in the tank. This doesn’t mean that they are aggressive. They just simply eat almost anything that fits in their mouth. So, keep this mind when you choose tank mates. It’s best to have mates that grow as big as these fish.
The Tetra Fish, is a big bunch of different versions of the same Tetra species. For instance, these are some of the types of Tetras you can get from a store: Neon Tetras, Rosy Tetras, Lemon Tetras, Penguin Tetras and other as well.
One of the most commonly bought versions, is the Neon Tetra. This is a very small fish, that grows only up to 1.5 inches long. Even so, it is among the most beautiful freshwater fish you could get. And on top of that, it lives up to 8 years old.
They like to school together, and most of their time is spent swimming around in the tank, especially in the water column. Because of their peaceful behavior, they are the perfect addition to a community aquarium.
10. Rasbora Fish
Just like the Tetras before, the Rasbora is another bigger family, that consists in many different versions of the same species. Some of the most popular Rasbora Fish are these: Harlequin Rasbora, Brilliant Rasbora and Clown Rasbora.
The Harlequin Rasbora Fish is well-known among fish keepers. This one lives in small groups, and likes to meet other tank mates frequently. Also, it is one of the most simple to care for species among the others on this list. Basically, the Harlequin Rasbora is the perfect match for a beginner fish keeper.
If you make sure they have a clean water, together with a balanced diet, they will surely thrive in your artificial environment. And it’s worth mentioning that a Rasbora will live up to 8 years, if you do everything by the book.
Be sure to put small fish in the same tank with Rasboras; at most, fishes that are double in size. Otherwise, bigger species will see them as a snack.
11. Betta Fish
This species is a controversial one. On one hand, it is a very beautiful and sought for fish, that even beginners would like to own. On the other hand though, it is quite complicated to care for, thus making it a tougher choice for beginners.
First of all, everyone would like to own 1 or 2 Bettas, because of their special look. They come in many different colors, but the most important aspect when you look at them, is the fin in the back. This covers half of their body, making them look very special, compared to most other species on this list.
But being among the most beautiful fish, comes with a price: they rarely get along with others. Usually, Bettas hardly get along with each other. Because of this, adding other species to the tank should be done carefully. Some good tank mates could be the Black Tetras, Catfish, Croacking Gouramis, Rasboras and Poecilias.
12. Siamese Algae Eater
The Siamese Algae Eater, like its name suggests, is most commonly known for its algae eating capabilities. Most people who add this breed to their aquarium, do it because this species will clean the tank from most of the algae.
If you want a fish that works well with most other breeds, the Siamese Algae Eater is a great choice. It is a peaceful species, that lives well in community tanks. Because it’s a bottom dweller, you need to make sure, the others who will live there, don’t bother your Siamese Algae Eaters.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that Algae Eaters live well in groups of 4 to 6 members. Usually, they like to school together, but this isn’t a must. If you want to, you can keep only 1 or 2 of them in the tank as well. They thrive, no matter their numbers.
They are omnivores, so feeding them will be quite easy. They will mostly eat the algae that in the water, but you should give them other food supplies too. Pellets and wafers that sink to the bottom of the tank, are a good choice.
13. Otocinclus Fish
The Otocinclus breed, is another fish, that is well-known for its algae eating capabilities. Because of this, feeding them will be quite easy, similar to the Siamese Algae Eaters. There is a difference however:
The Otocinclus Fish, is an herbivore species. So, avoid giving them meat, or other food products that include meat as well. A good choice, would be the algae wafers you can buy at any fish store. Usually, 1 piece at every 2 days is enough to feed them.
But if you don’t want to buy ready-made food, you can get something from your kitchen too. Green vegetables are loved by the Otocinclus. Lettuce, spinach and zucchini are great, if you cut them into small pieces.
If you have a tank of small, fresh water fish, the Otocinclus can prove to be a great addition. Due to its peaceful nature, it will thrive with other peaceful species in a community tank.
14. Danios Fish
The Danios are a bigger family of fish. They come in many different versions. Some of the most popular ones are these: Zebra Danios, Pearl Danios and Queen Danios. Now, let’s take a look at the Zebra Danios, more closely:
You need at least a 10-gallon tank for housing Zebra Danios. They grow up to 2 inches long, so they’re not the biggest among fresh water breeds. Being so small and peaceful, makes them great choices for community aquariums.
Differently from many other species in this article, the Zebra Danios will thrive in colder waters, just as well as warm ones. Most Danios need a water that’s between 64- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit. So, you don’t need a water heater, to keep Danios in your tank.
But a great water filter is a must. They need a crystal clean water, to thrive in. Make sure you buy a cleaner that does a good job at this.
The Rainbowfish is a popular breed, both among beginner and experienced fish keeping enthusiasts. They are small fish, that live well together with other community fish species. Because of their small size, you should avoid putting bigger fish in the same tank as them (Bettas for instance).
They are schooling fish, so make sure you have 5 or 6 at least in a group. This way, they will feel at home in their new environment. If you keep multiple ones together, the males will exhibit their best colors towards the females. The group will look much better because of this.
Feeding them is pretty simple, since the Rainbowfish are omnivores. You can give them earthworms, pellets, simple vegetables, or specially made food for their kind.
However, they are not bottom dwellers, like others on this list. Make sure, they have plenty of space in the aquarium, because they like to swim around in groups. Usually, a 30-gallon tank is enough for a group of 6 Rainbowfish.
16. Clown Loaches
Clown Loaches are a popular breed among fish keepers, due to their look and behavior. They are schooling fish, that are very active during daytime. Clown Loaches have an orange body, that is covered by v-shaped stripes on both sides (this is where its name comes from).
Because they are schooling fish, you should keep 3 or 4 in the same group. They are peaceful, so keeping them in community tanks is a great choice. Almost any other fish breed will prove to be a great tank mate, as long as it is peaceful and happy to live in groups.
Differently from many other species in this article, the Clown Loaches are a carnivore breed. They eat both live and dry foods, but they prefer live. Earthworms are a great source of nutrients for Clown Loaches. But you can buy food products yourself, if that is what you want.
17. African Cichlids
If you want something colorful in the aquarium, then the African Cichlids are among the best choices you could pick. These are beautiful fish, that come in all kinds of colors, you could imagine. A community tank will look amazing, if you add some African Cichlids into it.
Depending on the breed (yes, there are multiple different kinds), an African Cichlid can live up to 15 years old. So, if you plan to create a long-lasting fresh water environment, these fish can prove a good choice.
However, there is a downside: African Cichlids are quite territorial and aggressive. If you put them together with other fish that like to swim around a lot, they will get attacked at some point by the Cichlids.
So, if you want multiple breeds to live together with Cichlids, make sure you choose species that live on the bottom of the tank most of the time. This way, both species will have their space clearly set out.
18. Ram Cichlids
This is another Cichlid breed, but it’s different from the one above. The main difference is their behavior. African Cichlids are quite aggressive, as I pointed out above, however Ram Cichlids are not. Actually, they do best with peaceful companions, just like them.
Because of this, a community tank is perfect for Ram Cichlids. You can put them together with fish like the Platies, Corydoras, Guppies, Clown Loaches and even Tetras. They will behave peacefully to one another.
The Ram Cichlid is another omnivore fish species, so you can feed it all kinds of different food. In the wild, they eat small insects mostly. You can replicate that, by giving them mosquito larvae or other small insect larvae. Simple vegetables are also a great food source for Ram Cichlids.
Killifish owners are among the largest groups of fish keepers on the globe. Why? Because the Killifish is one of the most beautiful looking species that you can get for a fresh water aquarium. There are many different types of Killifish that you can buy, but there is something common in all of them: they are all vividly colored.
Almost all types of Killifish are peaceful towards other breeds, which makes them great tank mates to almost every community fish species. However, the males could get aggressive against the other males in the tank.
Most Killifish breeds are carnivores in their natural habitat. To feed them properly, you can give them crustaceans, insect larvae and worms. These should all be live when you feed your fish. Killifish require a well-balanced diet, to meet their nutritional requirements.
Such a diet includes the following food types: Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, Mosquito Larvae, White Worms, Black Worms and Tubifex Worms.
20. Discus Fish
Discus Fish are considered a more complex breed, that require more attention to keep. Even so, you can own some of them, if you do everything by the book. Some of the basic requirements for Discus Fish are these: stable and clean water, a temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit in the water, pH level of 6.5 and water hardness of 4.
Discus Fish are carnivorous by nature, so you can feed them dry or live food, as you like. Some food items they really like are the blood worms, pellets, flakes and beef heart. Yes, beef heart.
This is a great addition to Discus Fish diet, because they really like it (of course) and it contains important substances, that Discus Fish need. There is a downside to it however: it can pollute the tank. So make sure you give it in small quantities, and do regular maintenance and cleaning work.
Goldfish are one of the most popular fresh water fish species out there. If not THE most popular breed. There are lots of different version of Goldfish, but now I’ll cover them in general.
Most Goldfish will grow up to 6 inches long (there are smaller ones as well) and live up to 10 years old, if cared for properly. To house Goldfish, you need a 20-gallon fish tank, at least. Also, the water doesn’t need to be heated, because they usually live in colder environments.
Goldfish are a peaceful breed, that works very well in community tanks. Keep something in mind though: some versions of Goldfish, aren’t very fast swimmers. So, don’t put them together with larger and quicker species, because they won’t be able to get away.
22. Oscar Fish
If looks can be deceiving, the Oscar breed is a living proof of that statement. This is a beautiful species, that spends its time swimming gracefully in the tank. But as I said, look can be deceiving.
These creatures are quite aggressive towards other tank mates. Because they grow up to 12 inches long, and they are omnivores as well, you should be careful when choosing tank mates to put besides them. Actually, the Oscars are a race of Cichlids, so you shouldn’t be surprised about their aggressive behavior towards other.
Most of their time is spent swimming in the middle regions of the aquarium. But at times, they will venture down to the bottom, in search of food. If you’re not an experienced fish keeper yet, it’s best if you look for other breeds for your tank.
23. Dwarf Puffer Fish
Like its name suggests, the Dwarf Puffer is a small fish breed, that’s very common in home aquariums. It comes from India and usually it’s sold at its full size, of about 2.5 cm.
Because of its small size, the Dwarf Puffer doesn’t need a big tank to live in. actually, 1 Puffer needs one gallon of water. Keeping this in mind, and knowing that Puffers are schooling fish, a 10-gallon tank can prove to be more than enough for them.
However, if you plan to add other companions in the aquarium too, you should up that number. Because the Dwarf Puffers are very peaceful in nature, they make great additions to community tank.
But be careful, don’t add bigger fish in there, that might confuse your Puffers for a snack.
24. Rainbow Kribs (Kribensis Cichlids)
If you want a proper community fish in your tank, that won’t bother the others, the Rainbow Krib is your likely choice. Especially because, this is a Cichlid, that isn’t aggressive towards its tank mates (quite rare, yes).
This breed is considered a dwarf Cichlid, because it only grows up to 3 or 4 inches in size. Their natural habitat is situated in the rivers and deltas of West Africa. These rivers have slow moving waters, that make perfect habitat for the Rainbow Kribs. You can easily replicate this environment in your aquarium.
I said that they are very peaceful fish. And that is true, however there is a time when they get quite aggressive: this is during the breeding period. When they’re in this state, they will get pretty territorial towards others in the tank.
25. Barb Fish
The Barb is a bigger family, that consists in many different looking fish: Tiger Barb, Denison Barb, Gold Barb, Cherry Barb, Rosy Barb and others as well.
Most Barb species are schooling fish, that live in small groups. If you plan to buy some Barbs, be prepared to house 5 or 6 of them. This is how they will most likely thrive in the new aquarium.
One of the most recognizable is the Tiger Barb. This is a beautiful fish, that is known to nip the fins of others in the tank. Because of this behavior, they are not suited for all types of community aquariums. However, other versions don’t behave this way.
It’s best to keep them in small schools, with other Barbs, not necessarily of the same type.
That’s all! You learned about the best fresh water fish species for indoor aquariums. The next step is yours to take. Pick some of these species, those that work well together, and you can begin setting up the tank.
But if you’d like to, you can even start with just one breed, then slowly work it up to 3 or 4 different species. The choice is all yours!